JACKSONVILLE, FL– Criminals are continually coming up with new and creative ways to smuggle illegal narcotics into the United States. This newly discovered drug operation out of Florida utilized a popular children’s toy in order to avoid suspicion.
On Thursday, March 4th, the Department of Homeland Security along with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office announced that three men from Jacksonville were arrested for drug trafficking between the United States and Puerto Rico.
That return address will get you every time! https://t.co/2enDnLI39b
— 102.5 The Bone (@1025TheBone) March 5, 2021
Police say 28-year-old Edgar Lopez, 24-year-old Yaddiel Lopes, and Cassidy Martinez-Iglesias were attempting to run a narcotics distribution network via the U.S. Postal Service in Jacksonville, Florida.
An investigation was opened that involved multiple agencies including the United States Postal Service, Department of Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Agency Puerto Rico, the Florida Highway Patrol, and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
CBS47 reported that Drug authorities in Puerto Rico first contacted the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in January regarding a suspicious package that was to be delivered to Edgar Lopez’s residence in Jacksonville.
The package contained a stuffed animal, a teddy bear, filled with two kilos of cocaine and a tracking device, according to Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Director Mike Bruno.
Following this information, the United States Postal Service discovered a second package that was to be delivered from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico.
Upon further investigation, the United States Postal Service agents discovered the package contained another teddy bear, however this bear was full of cash instead of narcotics.
The return address was reportedly an apartment complex on Mayport Road where Yaddiel allegedly worked.
#JSO Director Mike Bruno spoke today regarding an investigation by the JSO Narcotics Unit with @USPS, @DHSgov, @DEAHQ, @FHPJacksonville, & @SAO4Florida. Three suspects were arrested after trafficking cocaine into Jacksonville from Puerto Rico.
— Jax Sheriff's Office (@JSOPIO) March 4, 2021
According to investigators, the suspects used multiple locations within Jacksonville where they would ship and receive the illegal narcotics, including businesses and private residences.
On February 23rd, following the discovery of a third suspicious package which was en route to Mayport Road from Puerto Rico, narcotics detectives, United States Postal Service postal inspectors, and a Florida Highway Patrol canine handler met at the Post Office in Jacksonville to determine the contents of box.
They once again discovered a teddy bear that was stuffed with cocaine, CBS47 reported.
According to Mike Bruno, on February 26th, an undercover operation was conducted at the apartment complex on Mayport Road. Officers were able to successfully take all three men were taken into custody.
It is reported that Police seized over 5 kilos of cocaine, $130,000 in cash, various firearms, and BMW.
Recent reports are showcasing a concerning trend relating to overdose deaths in the United States, with over 83,500 people having died from an overdose in the 12-month period ending July 2020.
This upward trend of overdose deaths in concurrence with a recent report from the DEA noting that Mexican cartel operations are only getting stronger makes the matter even all the more concerning.
“This represents a worsening of the drug overdose epidemic in the United States,” @CDCgov stated.
— The Epoch Times (@EpochTimes) March 4, 2021
With the data showcasing that fatal overdoses have increased by approximately 24%, the CDC issued a health advisory back on December 17th of 2020 specifically making mention of fentanyl-related deaths and the rise in overdoses in correlation to lockdown measures enacted at the onset of the pandemic:
“The purpose of this Health Alert Network (HAN) Advisory is to alert public health departments, healthcare professionals, first responders, harm reduction organizations, laboratories, and medical examiners and coroners to -”
“(1) substantial increases in drug overdose deaths across the United States, primarily driven by rapid increases in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids excluding methadone (hereafter referred to as synthetic opioids), likely illicitly manufactured fentanyl;”
“(2) a concerning acceleration of the increase in drug overdose deaths, with the largest increase recorded from March 2020 to May 2020,coinciding with the implementation of widespread mitigation measures for the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Back in May of 2020, we at Law Enforcement Today shared a report about many of the projected deaths of despair that experts predicted would result from lockdown measures – with overdoses being among those predictions.
But what seems to be the biggest issue in the realm of overdose death increasing is fentanyl, which the DEA says is an ever-increasing problem due to the lethality of the drug in small doses and Mexican cartels’ manufacturing and distribution of the drug here in the United States.
The DEA'S 2020 drug threat assessment notes the continue prevalence and availability of fentanyl throughout the United States, what local authorities have called "a scourge" in Eastern Washington. Report: https://t.co/VmRv1azluz | Past coverage: https://t.co/pkKSB5Bd37
— Kip Hill (@kiphillreporter) March 3, 2021
The DEA report says that the, “majority of heroin and fentanyl available in the United States is smuggled,” through the southern border – with Mexican cartels obtaining the chemicals needed to manufacture the drug via Chinese suppliers.
But there’s also an issue, per the DEA, with fentanyl being directly ordered online and shipped from China as well:
“China-sourced fentanyl typically is smuggled in small volumes and generally tested over 90 percent pure.”
Apparently, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s generally between 50 to 100 times stronger than actual heroin – with doses as small as 2mg being fatal.
Sometimes the drug is laced in counterfeit pills made to look like they’re prescription Oxycodone pills, which are typically referred to as “Mexican oxys”.
Just released: #DEA’s 2020 annual National Drug Threat Assessment, reviewing what communities face related to drug misuse, including drug usage & trafficking trends for Rx, illegal & synthetic drugs. Also, the effect of #COVID19.https://t.co/PJIuu6LNXT pic.twitter.com/91GLunsNyl
— CESAR Research (@CESAResearch) March 3, 2021
Considering that roughly 80 percent of heroin started out using prescription painkillers like Oxycodone, this practice of counterfeit pills can contribute to unintentional overdoses as well.
It’s not only fentanyl that cartels have increased production efforts on, but also methamphetamine. The DEA says that the cartels control the, “wholesale methamphetamine distribution,” and that, “Mexican and domestic criminal groups typically control retail distribution in the United States.”
And with that increased production of methamphetamine comes an increase in overdoses, which the DEA says is continuing to increase:
“Drug poisoning deaths involving methamphetamine continue to rise as methamphetamine purity and potency remain high while prices remain relatively low.”
Powder cocaine overdose deaths have also been steadily increasing since 2013, with the wholesale market being dominated Columbian-produced product that in turn gets distributed by the Mexican cartels.
From there, the powder cocaine winds up in the hands of, “local U.S. criminal groups and street gangs,” who then, “facilitate mid-and retail-level distribution.” When it comes to crack cocaine production, the DEA says that it, “is mainly handled by local U.S. criminal groups and street gangs.”